Citing rising homelessness, Norwalk could ask federal judge for the right to enforce anti-camping laws – Whittier Daily News
Norwalk can become the next city to seek authorization from a federal judge to enforce its anti-camping laws.
City officials have said they are keen to start talks amid concerns over the growing number of homeless people in the community.
“We are looking to have a conversation with Judge Carter, just to see what the options are,” said Mayor Jennifer Perez, referring to U.S. District Judge David O. Carter overseeing a trial involving the City of Los Angeles and Orange County on roaming issues.
Last year, tBellflower towns and Whittier opened homeless shelters and in turn received permission from Carter to enforce curfew and anti-camping laws.
“Staff are exploring ways to provide shelter beds so that we can help all homeless people, addressing the concerns of residents concerned about camps in public places,” said Deputy City Manager Richard Rojas.
Until recently, the number of homeless was on the decline – in fact, the official tally has shown declines over the past three years – but that is no longer true, officials said.
“We are dealing with a population that is very on the move and we have seen an increase in homelessness via Project Homekey and Project Roomkey, ”Rojas said. “So we are trying to get a better idea of the population that we are obligated to serve.”
The Homekey and Roomkey projects are state programs in which a variety of agencies, such as Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, purchase or lease hotels, respectively, for housing the homeless.
In Norwalk, a Motel 6 at 10646 E. Rosecrans Avenue was purchased for Project Homekey and a Saddleback Inn at 12500 Firestone Boulevard has been leased for the Roomkey project.
Rojas said the city’s main concern is the key to Project Room. “What we found from the Roomkey project is that while they may have around 210 beds, they have over 300 people who have left the program and are not counted,” Rojas said.
Rojas said he didn’t expect to have the same result with Project Homekey.
In an emailed statement, LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston said Project Roomkey shouldn’t be blamed for Norwalk’s issues, as Saddleback Inn is one of the best-run sites in the system.
“The Roomkey project sites are not locked and participants are free to go out on their own. Marston wrote.
“Across the system, more than 6,000 people have entered to protect themselves from COVID-19, which has accommodated over 1,000 people,” she said. “The Saddleback Inn’s inclusion in the Roomkey Project in Gateway Cities makes it easier to help people move from Norwalk encampments to shelter and to a permanent home,” wrote Marston.
It’s no surprise that officials have noted an increase in encampments – this was seen across the county, unrelated to Roomkey’s operations, Marston said.
“The effects of the pandemic on income and housing are pushing people into homelessness, and the economic fallout from the pandemic is expected to increase adult homelessness by 52,300 in LA County by 2023 according to the economic roundtable, ”she wrote. “We need more shelter and shelter options in every part of the county today.”
In an email, Irene Muro, executive director of Whittier Area First Day Coalition which manages Operation Project Roomkey at Saddleback Inn, said her agency was doing a good job.
“The Roomkey project provides participants with a safe place to shelter, meals to improve their overall health, and access to support services such as mental health, veterans benefits and addiction treatment,” said writes Muro.
“It serves as a channel to get people out of camps and streets by connecting them to the services and supports needed to make the transition to permanent housing,” she said. “Our team is actively participating in the Norwalk Homelessness Task Force meeting, provided regular updates to the city on the progress of the program, and engages with local law enforcement to respond to issues. public safety issues that may arise. ”
The issue of homelessness was raised at the Tuesday February 16 city council meeting focusing on how to spend the $ 850,708 it receives from the federal government to help cope with the impacts of the coronavirus crisis .
City staff have proposed spending $ 230,000 on a Wi-Fi program or on the homeless. Council members voted for the latter.
“It will probably take funds to implement the things that he wants us to implement,” said city manager Jesus Gomez, referring to Carter. “The goal for me is to reduce the homeless population on the streets, whether through housing or law enforcement. If they do not want accommodation, we will ask them to continue to another destination.
City Councilor Rick Ramirez has called for using the $ 230,000 to fund some kind of program to deal with homeless people with mental illnesses or a drug problem.
The rest of the money was offered as rent assistance to its residents, to fund a hot meal program for those in need and for the homeless.
The city has already received $ 747,572 of the $ 2.2 trillion federal coronavirus aid, relief and economic security law passed in early 2020. It was used to create a $ 700,000 interest-free loan program for businesses .
As of Jan. 29, 2021, the city has helped 42 businesses and loaned Norwalk businesses $ 367,316. Seven other companies are approved for funding in the amount of $ 49,671.[loaned7316toNorwalkbusinessesAnadditionalsevenbusinessesareapprovedforfundingintheamountof671[loaned7316toNorwalkbusinessesAnadditionalsevenbusinessesareapprovedforfundingintheamountof671
“It’s great to see that we are getting the funds and being able to spend them is a good thing. I like the idea of investing money in our homeless awareness program, ”said Mayor Perez.
The plan includes spending of $ 400,000 in rent assistance, $ 230,000 for the homeless, $ 170,141 for administration and $ 50,567 for the hot meal program.
City councilor Margarita Rios wanted to use the money for the hot meal project – but changed it to a project similar to a program offered last year by supervisor Janice Hahn.
Hahn has donated $ 330,000 to 10 agencies, including the Whittier Boys and Girls Club, which will use its share of $ 25,000 to buy gift cards at 10 restaurants and then donate them to help families in need.
Why don’t we think about helping our businesses and giving families a voucher to use at one of our local restaurants, ”said city councilor Margarita Rios. “That way we would help the families and also help our local business in the process. “
But John Ramirez, director of community development, said he was not sure the federal government would allow such a program.
“It could go against HUD guidelines,” Ramirez said, referring to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Rios said Ramirez should do more research. He said he would.